6 Tips to Ensure Employee Safety in the Workplace
As COVID-19 continues to alter life as we know it, businesses are left feeling vulnerable, workers are anxious, and there is a looming dread: What if someone tests positive?
There are all of two ways to manage the COVID onslaught: Either shut down operations completely or mitigate this risk through right hygiene and prevention measures. For businesses like manufacturing and food processing that are facing increased demand, shutting down is not an option.
In this article, we unpack best practices on employee safety that business owners like you can implement to reduce the risk of contagion to maintain business continuity.
Here's how you can implement employee safety in the workplace
1. Follow the advice of public health and safety agencies
Public health and work safety agencies should be the primary source of advice for businesses in the current situation the world is in. Business owners must understand what measures are required as well as what practices to put in place for their business to operate safely during these times.
Government agencies have already outlined a few responsibilities for employers. Click here to learn more.
2. Implement the right hygiene measures
Employers should encourage staggered shifts and breaks to limit contact between workers and possibly reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. Remote work should also be explored as an option for managers and certain employees, especially in the leadership team. This way you can ensure not everyone is out of action in case a positive case is detected in the facility.
If remote work is not possible, employee safety measures should be followed on-site, including hygiene measures. You can create and print a visible safety checklist that should be circulated on-site, especially in common and frequently visited areas.
There are certain businesses in the essential sectors that went a step further with their workplace and employee safety rules. For example, Courchesne-Larose—a Montreal-based food distributor—is using wearable technology to manage employee interactions and pull real-time reports to make data-driven insights.
3. Modify common areas to ensure employee safety
One should reconsider the overall layout of common places, such as cafeterias, dining rooms, or break rooms to minimize contact. You can also explore the possibility of adding plexiglass between tables to further minimize the risk of spread.
Lunch hours should be reevaluated and staggered. Make sure that social distancing is followed in cafeterias too by placing tables and chairs at two-meter distance, and also limiting the number of people that can be present at the lunch table at any given time.
4. Frequently sanitize common areas and office equipment
Step up your workplace hygiene practices by cleaning everyday equipment and sanitizing work surfaces at the beginning and end of every day/shift. Workers who rotate from one station to the other during a shift should frequently wash their hands and sanitize surfaces and machines before use.
Additionally, bathrooms and restrooms are big carriers for viruses and should be frequently cleaned and sanitized.
The CDC has outlined measures you can follow while sanitizing common areas and frequently used office equipment.
5. Make sure your employees adhere to workplace safety measures
Worker safety measures will not translate into tangible benefits if employees are unaware of best practices or choose to flout workplace rules. As a business owner or manager, you need to actively communicate the measures you have undertaken for their safety, while assuaging any data privacy concerns employees may have.
Moreover, you should proactively communicate any changes in safety guidelines that can possibly affect your employees.
6. Rethink and re-evaluate your business operations
Previously, industrial plant owners and managers relied on face-to-face meetings, daily briefings and more. This model is obsolete today.
Businesses need to reevaluate their on-floor operations to manage employee performance, while adhering to social distancing and contact tracing guidelines.
A good example of such employee safety measures is Metal Power Products (MPP) that implemented wearable technology on-site. In April, last year, they encountered a few instances where employees were experiencing symptoms. They had to move swiftly, interview the affected individual, trace secondary interactions, conduct further interviews. Not only was this process long-drawn, it was highly unreliable because it was fully dependent on the memory of people.
The company implemented a contact tracing and social distancing solution at their plant to protect 800 employees, giving them data-driven insights right at their fingertips. To learn how MPP keeps employee safety at top of mind, click here.
The coronavirus will have long-lasting—perhaps permanent—effects on workplaces, especially manufacturing and food processing plants. Companies that will swiftly embrace change and technology to better protect their workers will be the ones who will safeguard their business and prevent any reputational damage.
The coming weeks and months will remain extremely challenging for plant leaders, but the crisis also creates an opportunity to reimagine the way work is done. By accelerating the adoption of new technology, you have the opportunity to emerge from the crisis safer, more productive, and more resilient.